The Czech government has agreed to extend the mission of its military police officers deployed in Iraq by two months. According to the Czech Foreign Minister Cyril Svoboda the extended period - from January till the end of February - is related to security concerns over elections due to be held in Iraq at the start of the year. Washington has said it expects an increase of violence ahead of the elections. The Czech military police contingent is deployed near the town of Basra in southern Iraq where it has helped to train hundreds of Iraqi police officers since December of 2003.
Czech troops may work with a German military team to help prepare infrastructure and security in Northern Afghanistan for October's presidential election, German Defence Minister Peter Struck said on Wednesday. The Czech Republic is prepared to make 40 soldiers available in the near future. The German-run unit, based in the town of Faizabad, is the second so-called "provincial reconstruction" team. It is currently staffed by 30 German soldiers and is to include a total of 85 troops. Berlin has so far failed to bring other countries, notably the Netherlands, on board. In a related development, the Czech defence ministry said that 100 Czech soldiers, most of them special forces troops, serving in Afghanistan would be repatriated this month after ending a six months tour of duty.
The United States will consider ways of simplifying the procedure of visa applications for Czech citizens. US Deputy Secretary of State Richard Armitage said during talks in Prague on Wednesday that Washington was aware of the complications surrounding the process of visa applications for Czech citizens and would do its best to simplify matters as far as possible. He said that lifting visa regulations for Czech citizens was not on the agenda at present and that a certain degree of security would need to be maintained in view of the existing anti-terrorist measures. A US envoy is to visit Prague later this month to discuss the matter with Czech officials. Prague had been hoping for a reciprocal arrangement, since American citizens do not need visas to enter the Czech Republic.
Czech police said on Tuesday that a man suspected of trying to kill a casino owner in Prague last month by detonating a hand grenade under his car on a busy street has been arrested in Israel. The failed attack left eighteen people, mainly foreign tourists, injured. The suspect is said to be a 27-year-old man from a former Soviet state, who is now an Israeli citizen. He was identified after his DNA was found on clothes left in a basement near the crime scene along with a wig, a gun and another hand grenade. Police believe he left the Czech Republic on the same day of the attack. The Czech authorities have asked for him to be extradited to the Czech Republic.
Several schools throughout the Czech Republic observed a minute's silence on Tuesday in memory of the victims of the Beslan school siege last week, which saw at least 330 killed and over 700 injured. Last Wednesday, European Parliament President Josep Borrell called onto thousands of schools around Europe, to hold a minute of silence on September 14.
Police have arrested a man suspected of the murder of a Czech priest. The murder took place on Saturday in the Usti nad Labem region, during an apparent robbery attempt. The victim was 78-year-old Ladislav Kubicek. The suspect, 26-year-old Rudolf Samko, allegedly hit the victim in the head several times before setting the building he was in on fire. Mr Samko was found on Tuesday, a few metres away from a Czech-Austrian border crossing in southern Moravia.
The Czech Republic puts less money into its education system than most other members of the Organisation for Economic Co-operation and Development, OECD. This according to the OECD's latest statistics in Education at a Glance - a comparative study of education systems of member countries - published on Tuesday. While the Czech Republic spent a mere 4.2 percent of its GDP, other OECD members have spent 6.2 percent on average. Education at a Glance is a publication that is updated every year and enables countries to see themselves in the light of other countries' performances.
Iraqi officials have asked Prague for arms supplies recently due to the Baghdad government's critical shortage of weapons needed to fight rebel groups and criminal gangs in Iraq, Monday's edition of the newspaper Pravo reports. The daily quotes an Iraqi official as saying that the government forces have nothing but Kalashnikovs with which to take on terrorists armed with missile launchers and machine guns. Three high Iraqi officials visited Prague this summer. In July, it was the Kurdish leader Jalal Talabani, in August the Water Resources Minister Abdul-Latif Rashid, and last week it was the Culture Minister Mufid al-Jazairi. According to the daily, all the three delegations mentioned Baghdad's interest in Czech weapons.
Prague's Attorney's Office has sent a request to strip Vladimir Zelezny of European Parliamentary immunity which would allow the MP to face criminal charges at home. The request, which is the 2nd put forward in Mr Zelezny's case, was received by the justice ministry, which will now pass it on to the European Parliament. It concerns two incidents in which Mr Zelezny is charged: harming a creditor, as well as tax evasion, during the days when Mr Zelezny was the head of the Czech Republic's most successful private TV broadcaster TV Nova.
Defence ministry Deputy Minister Martin Belcik has revealed that
negotiations on sending Czech ammunition to Afghanistan are drawing to
an end. The proposal to donate ammunition to Afghanistan's army under
President Hamid Karzai, must now be agreed upon by the Czech
government. The Czech Army needs to get rid of thousands of tonnes of
unneeded ammunition left over from the former Czechoslovak Army: some
39,000 tonnes are slated to be destroyed later this year, while a
further 27, 000 tonnes can be donated, or even sold.
On Monday Mr Belcik refused to comment what type of calibre ammunition Afghanistan's army might receive.
The new Afghani army counts some 13, 000 soldiers, while the number of police officers in the country now count more than twice that number. The actual transport of the Czech ammunition, if agreed upon, would be organised by the United States.
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